I discovered Doug Belshaw’s blog and podcast last night, http://teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk, and was delighted to read the thoughts of a kindred spirit when it comes to learning, teaching, and student engagement. Doug is reading John Holt’s book “What Do I Do Monday?” and has posted both quotations and reflections to his blog as both text and audio podcasts. I heartily concur with these observations from Doug:

We suffer from poverty in the world of education: our conception of what learning actually looks like is woefully inadequate. It’s easy to talk of ‘engagement’, ‘accelerated learning’, etc. without really getting to the nub of the matter. Learning isn’t something that people do in a classroom when sitting at desks. It’s perhaps one way and one situation where some learning might occur on some occasions. But it’s not the be-all and end-all – and we shouldn’t forget that.

I have only read excerpts of Holt’s book “Why Children Fail,” but his ideas in “What Do I Do Monday” fall right in line with what I read previously. Doug includes in his post the following from Holt’s intro to his book, which is right on target:

For years, like many people, I thought of learning as collecting facts or ideas. It was something like eating, or being given medicine, or getting an injection at the doctor’s. But from my own experience, and that of children, and from books, I have come to see learning very differently, as a kind of growing, a moving and expanding of the person into the world around him.

This reminds me of what the Schlecty Center teaches about learning: You can’t force kids to learn, you can only invite them to. Hopefully I’ll make time in the weeks ahead to read more from both John Holt and Doug Belshaw. Doug has generously podcasted several posts, including the one above about Holt and a second reflection. Thanks for sharing, Doug!

In addition to liking Doug’s ideas about education and learning, I also like his WordPress theme: 3K2! I need to move my blog over to a new server that my current ISP has activated and upgrade to WordPress 2– when I do I’ll probably experiment with using the 3K2 theme as well. I like the tabbed links at the top of the page, which can be customized. Doug also has integrated cool features like a dynamic “live archive” of posts including a tag cloud, and a way to explore via a chronology of posts, a folksonomy of posts, and a taxonomy of posts. Very cool.

Lastly, Doug has a dry wit that I appreciate. As an example, here is how he describes his educational background and current activities, on his about page:

Aside from his full-time role as International Man of Mystery, Doug Belshaw currently moonlights as a long-term supply teacher at a school in Nottinghamshire. As of September 2006 he will be working as a Teacher of History at a very successful school in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. He began his teaching career in 2004 as a History teacher at a large comprehensive in Nottinghamshire, England. In 2003 he managed to con the University of Durham into letting him put on a gown and mince around the cathedral to pick up an MA in Modern History and then, inexplicably, tricked them into giving him a licence to teach in 2004. Before this, in 2002, whilst hanging around Sheffield University in an attempt to grow a goatee, he was mistaken for a student and the resulting mix-up allowed him to gain a BA in Philosophy (2:1). Somewhat foolishly, perhaps, he has undertaken an Ed.D (Doctorate in Education) through Durham University, as someone there seems to understand what he is talking about (most of the time).


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One Response to Doug Belshaw on John Holt and authentic learning

  1. Doug Belshaw says:

    My goodness, I feel honoured! A whole post on the venerable Wes Fryer’s blog all about little old me…

    All I can say is thanks, Wes. I’m inspired by people like you, Will Richardson and the guys over at EdTechTalk. Keep up the good work and come and visit next time you’re in the UK! 🙂

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